Durham Cathedral’s Best Bits
Open Treasure takes visitors on a journey of discovery through the most intact medieval claustral buildings in the UK. Durham Cathedral is often referred to as the best example of Romanesque architecture in Europe, and according to the legendary American writer Bill Bryson ‘the best Cathedral on Planet Earth’, currently attracting over 750,000 visitors annually. This summer the multi-million pound exhibition experience will play host to an extraordinary exhibition programme displaying some of England’s most important historical documents, artefacts and relics, dramatically transforming the Cathedral’s visitor offer.
Magna Carta and the Forest Charters – Open from 19th June to 9th September 2017
The first exhibition of the Summer will showcase an original 1217 Forest Charter to celebrate the 800th anniversary of this companion to the Magna Carta. This significant historical document will go on display alongside the only surviving 1216 issue of the Magna Carta as well as two further issues of each from 1225 and 1300. With three clauses from the 1225 Magna Carta still in force today, the document remains a cornerstone of British democracy 800 years on. The exhibition marks the first occasion that these six 13th century documents will be displayed together.
The Treasures of St Cuthbert – Opens on 29th July 2017
The second exhibition will see Open Treasure enter a new phase at Durham Cathedral with a magnificent display of the permanent Treasures of St Cuthbert, including a rare collection of Anglo Saxon artefacts, with St Cuthbert’s beautifully preserved wooden coffin as the display centrepiece. Following his death in 687, St Cuthbert’s remains were discovered almost pristine 11 years later and preserved by the monks of Lindisfarne until 995 when they eventually arrived in Durham. Over 1,000 years on, St Cuthbert continues to play a unique role in North East England and the life of the Cathedral, with his Shrine remaining a place of global pilgrimage and worship. This permanent display will be housed in the recently restored Great Kitchen, one of only two surviving monastic kitchens in England.
Durham Cathedral is a Christian Church of the Anglican Communion, the shrine of St Cuthbert, the seat of the Bishop of Durham and a focus of pilgrimage and spirituality in North East England. It inhabits a treasured sacred space set in the natural and human landscape of the Durham UNESCO World Heritage Site. The building of Durham Cathedral commenced in 1093 and took around 40 years to complete. It replaced a Saxon cathedral built by the Community of St Cuthbert after it arrived in Durham in 995 following its flight from the ‘Holy Island’ of Lindisfarne 80 miles north of Durham. The body of St Cuthbert is enshrined in the Feretory at Durham Cathedral and the Tomb of the Venerable Bede is in The Galilee Chapel. The Cathedral existed as a Benedictine Monastery until 1539 when it became one of the Church of England’s major Cathedrals. It continues to be a focus for pilgrimage and attracts over 750,000 visitors each year from all over the world.
The Cathedral has internationally important collections of artefacts, manuscripts and books that include St Cuthbert’s coffin and his pectoral cross; superb examples of Anglo-Saxon craftsmanship. Open Treasure:
In July 2016 Durham Cathedral unveiled Open Treasure, a £10.9million programme of development, transforming some of the cathedral’s most historic spaces into a world-class exhibition route, taking in the 14th Century Monks’ Dormitory and the medieval Great Kitchen, alongside purpose-built state of the art gallery spaces. Open Treasure tells the story of Christianity in the North of England, monastic life in Durham and the life of the Cathedral today, through the Cathedral’s magnificent collections and a rolling programme of exhibitions. Open Treasure received a £3.9 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.